The Sleazy Salesman
The other day I had an interesting interaction with a salesman that left me, well, a little upset. This guy really rubbed me the wrong way and, as I played back our conversation in my mind, it was clear that he just had not been equipped with the tools to be an effective and pleasant salesperson. Here is a breakdown of a few areas where he was way off base:
So there I was, minding my own business, when this guy walks into our office asking to speak with whomever was in charge of marketing. So I jumped up to receive him. He represented a small publication producing a booklet of ads and/or coupons that are placed at local drug stores, grocery stores, etc. across the city. I mentioned to him that I had never heard of the publication before to which he replied that he had never heard of us either. I was a little surprised at how defensive his response was. I was also annoyed because immediately I realized that this was a cold call. He didn’t really care who I was or what my business was about…he just wanted a sale and was willing to go through as many no’s as possible to get one. What a waste of time! What if he had taken a moment in his car to Google our business or find out something about us before he came in. What if he had approached me with a pitch tailored to what he knew about our business instead of making it very clear that he was not willing to do more to earn my business than just walk through my door?
Translation to our industry: Our clients want to feel special. They don’t want to feel like one of many, approached in the same way as everyone else. Take some time to get to know them and note some of the details of your first interaction (which usually is over the phone or via email) so that when you meet face to face you make them feel important. A wedding planner I know once posted a thought online that was something like: I hate when I show up with a bride to a vendor meeting and the first thing that say is “what was your date again?”
So I took a few minutes to enlighten my visitor on my approach and strategy to marketing my business. I explained how I focus the majority of my marketing efforts on being in the right place when people are in the right frame of mind to buy what I sell. I expressed concern for paying for an ad in a mass market publication with the hopes of someone just picking it up and my ad reminding them that they will need catering. After what I thought was a pretty good justification for not wanting to participate in his “opportunity”, I said “Does that make sense.” His reply.: “No, not really. You see, I have a degree in marketing and that’s just not what you do. Marketing is all about putting your business out there and showing off your branding…oh and by the way, I think you may want to consider a different logo because your logo isn’t clear.” At this point, my blood was boiling. Apparently when I went to business school, I missed the class on talking down to prospects.
For our industry: In reflecting on this, obviously, we shouldn’t be rude or disrespectful to our prospects. However, I think it goes even further than that. We as wedding professionals, are experts. Sometimes couples come to us with plans or ideas that don’t necessarily fit with what we normally do, what is feasible to do, etc. A little tact is required in dealing with these issues. We can’t just say “well, I’ve been doing this for years and I know what works”, even when that’s true. For years I’ve had this conversation with my dad. He likes to let people know on the front end if their idea won’t work…which, over the years, has created situations where I have had to run interference. People don’t like to be told their wrong. I take a much more diplomatic approach and talk through the options and the ideas to help people decide on their own that the individual forks holding a meatball and perfectly twisted spaghetti noodles they saw online will no stay hot. If this salesman truly disagreed with my approach, he should have taught me or tried to lead me to a different conclusion, using his expertise and experience as a guide.
So once he realized that I was a caterer, he immediately tried to convince me that I needed to advertise right away to take advantage of the holiday season. I told him how, fortunately in my business, I don’t need more clients at Christmastime. I turn people away almost every day for December events. His reply was, well, I still think that you should consider this for holiday time to help solidify your bookings.
Translation: Persistence is important. Instead of trying to beat me into submission with the same pitch, he should have asked better questions such as “is there a time of year that you are not quite as busy where something like this could give you a boost?” Listening is so important in business, especially in sales. If we ask enough good questions, many times, the prospects come out and tell us exactly what they need. Don’t be so quick to sell what you think is a good idea without first listening to what the prospect is saying.
Needless to say, I didn’t choose to advertise with him and don’t plan to anytime soon.
-Featured image by Steve Snodgrass